Gizo, Solomon Islands, Jul 9, 2010 (CNA) - In the city of Gizo's Cathedral of St. Peter the Apostle, 63 priests and religious from the Solomon Islands' three dioceses celebrated last week's Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul with a public renewal of their vows.
The ceremony concluded a nine-day retreat for the islands' priests, led by their bishops along with two members of the Marianist order from the United States.
Taking place from June 20 to 29, the retreat, which was the first of its kind in the Oceania island chain's history, gave the priests a chance to reflect on their vocation during the final month of the Church's international Year for Priests.
The renewal of vows by the priests and their bishops took place in Gizo's recently rebuilt cathedral, a structure which required complete restoration after the 2007 earthquake and tsunami that devastated the island nation. According to the local paper The Solomon Star, each of the priests and bishops paused to pray individually before a Cross and Bible in front of the congregation, as a sign of commitment to their ministry.
According to the global Catholic charity Caritas International, the Solomon Islands remain one of the least developed states in the world, with most of the population employed in subsistence farming or fishing. The country consists of nearly 1,000 individual islands, presenting challenges both for building infrastructure and for pastoral work.
In spite of these struggles, however, Catholic leaders are seeking to renew evanglization efforts in the region. The Catholic Church Solomon Islands website indicated that Bishop Luciano Capelli of the Gizo Diocese is pursuing a "permanent" campaign of "evangelizing everyone and everything" in his diocese of Gizo, with a special emphasis on solidarity between the Church and those in need.
Vatican City, Jul 9, 2010 (CNA) - Further challenging claims of papal inaction in the face of Jewish persecution during World War II, a German historian conducting research in the Vatican archives has said that Pope Pius XII may have arranged for the escape of 200,000 Jews from Germany in the weeks after the Kristallnacht Nazi attacks.
Dr. Michael Hesemann based his claim on his research in the Vatican archives for the Pave the Way Foundation, a U.S.-based interfaith group, the Daily Telegraph reports.
He said that in 1938 the future Pope, who was then Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli, wrote to Catholic archbishops around the world to urge them to apply for visas for “non-Aryan Catholics” and Jewish converts to Christianity who wanted to leave Germany.
Hesemann reported that additional evidence suggests that the visas would have been given to ordinary Jews to escape persecution.
“The fact that this letter speaks of 'converted Jews’ and 'non-Aryan’ Catholics indeed seems to be a cover,” Hesemann told the Telegraph.
“You couldn’t be sure that Nazi agents wouldn’t learn about this initiative,” he continued. “Pacelli had to make sure they didn’t misuse it for their propaganda, that they could not claim that the Church is an ally of the Jews.”
The letter was dated Nov. 30, 1939, 20 days after Kristallnacht, the “night of broken glass” when Jews were attacked in Germany. Cardinal Pacelli could request the visas because the 1933 concordat signed with the Nazi government specifically provided protection for Jews who converted to Christianity.
Dr. Ed Kessler, who is director of the Cambridge-based Woolf Institute of Abrahamic Faiths, told the Telegraph “It is clear that Pius XII facilitated the saving of Roman Jews.”
While the wartime Pope is on the path to possible beatification and canonization, some Jewish groups have wanted the process stopped until the Vatican’s wartime archives are unsealed in 2014.
Critics of Pius XII charge that he failed to denounce the Holocaust.
His defenders point to evidence of his work to save Jews and to his veiled condemnations of Nazism. They say the charges of Pius XII’s “silence” primarily originate with the 1963 play “The Deputy,” by German playwright Rolf Hochhuth.
In an April 2009 interview with CNA, Pave the Way Foundation president Gary Krupp said that each time Hesemann enters the archive he comes out with an “astounding” document about Pius XII fighting anti-Semitism or saving Jewish lives.
“This information is so readily available, but nobody has gone to look,” Krupp continued, saying historians and critics of Pius XII’s pontificate do not have to wait for the sealed archives to open when they have “so much material they can look at.”
“That’s the disappointing part.”
Washington D.C., Jul 9, 2010 (CNA) - The Catholic Health Association (CHA) has applauded President Obama’s recess appointment of Harvard pediatrician Dr. Donald Berwick as administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).
Sr. Carol Keehan, D.C., CHA’s president and chief executive officer, said Berwick is needed to work on the health care mandates created by the recent health care legislation. In a Wednesday CHA press release, she reported that CMS has not had a permanent administrator since 2006.
She called Berwick “well qualified” for the position, describing him as “a visionary with great insight and knowledge of the health care delivery system based on his perspectives as a physician and teacher” who has championed high quality health care for decades.
"The task ahead is critically important for patients, their families and communities as CMS and providers collectively tackle the issues of expanding coverage, drafting regulations, developing payment policies and prioritizing patient safety and quality," Sr. Keehan continued.
President Obama circumvented Berwick’s Senate confirmation hearings by making a recess appointment, a move which drew criticism from Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.).
Other critics of the appointment have objected to Berwick’s comments praising European state health care systems as well as remarks he made on rationing health care.
Vatican City, Jul 9, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Benedict XVI has appointed Archbishop Velasio De Paolis, C.S., as the of the Pontifical Delegate to the Legion of Christ. Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi told journalists Friday that "as soon as possible" he will personally meet with the Legion's superiors to discuss the scope of his role.
The archbishop's appointment, announced precisely at noon on Friday, confirms well-informed Vatican journalist Andrea Tornielli's prediction from June 21 that the delegate would be the president of the Prefecture for the Economic Affairs of the Holy See. Archbishop De Paolis is also an expert in canon law.
On May 1 the Pope's intention to name a delegate to the Legion and a "commission to study the Legion's constitutions" was made known in a communique from the Holy See's Press Office following meetings between the five apostolic visitors to the Legion.
Fr. Lombardi told journalists today that it will likely be Archbishop De Paolis to "guide the commission and its 'birth'." As for other specifics of what the archbishop's exact role will be, no information was released.
However, the Vatican spokesman explained that "the first thing" the Pontifical delegate would do is go to meet with the superiors of the Legion to communicate the "terms and significance of his mandate" to them and, thus, the entire congregation.
"We have not published a decree or a mandate from the Pope," said Fr. Lombardi. "Why? Because this was received by him (Archbishop De Paolis) and he will communicate it to those involved ... "
He added that the archbishop will establish how, when and in what form the Holy Father's mandate will be communicated as well as details regarding the formation of the commission to examine the Legion's constitutions.
Fr. Lombardi pointed to the May 1 statement to underscored that the spirit of the Holy Father's actions is one of "accompaniment and of assistance by the Church in the challenging path of purification and renewal that awaits the congregation."
A Friday statement from the Legion recognized Archbishop De Paolis' "broad experience and proven competence in his own religious congregation, in university teaching, and in service to the Holy See." The order welcomed his appointment "with gratitude" and confirmed their desire “to respond fully to his guidance."
They also expressed their "deep gratitude to the Holy Father for his fatherly solicitude, and put themselves completely at the disposal of Archbishop de Paolis."
Underscoring the congregation's support for the delegate, the caption of a photo accompanying the statement on the Legion's website reads, “Since the pontifical delegate represents the Pope and acts in his name, he becomes the supreme authority for the religious congregation.”
Aside from his position as head of the prefecture for Vatican economic affairs, Archbishop De Paolis is a member of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura and consultor for three dicasteries of the Holy See. He is known in the Vatican to be an expert in canon law particularly as it applies to religious life.
Fr. Lombardi said that he will maintain his position as the prefecture's president while at the same time working in his new mandate.
Mexico City, Mexico, Jul 9, 2010 (CNA) - In a press release issued yesterday, Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera of Mexico City expressed his condolences and spiritual closeness to those affected by the flooding in the states of Nuevo Leon, Tamaulipas and Coahuila and called on the Mexican people to express their solidarity.
The cardinal urged Mexicans to help those affected by the natural disaster through organizations such as Caritas and the Mexican Red Cross.
“To the pastors of these areas, especially Cardinal Francisco Robles, the Archbishop of Mexico expresses his closeness and offers his prayers that the Lord will sustain and fill them with abundant blessings so that they can bring faith, hope and charity to those who have lost their homes or loved ones, whom we commend to the loving bosom of the Most Holy Virgin of Guadalupe, our sweet Mother.”
Brussels, Belgium, Jul 9, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Belgian Cardinal Godfried Danneels is filing a civil complaint against investigators after a second piece of information was leaked to the press, despite the fact that the investigation is supposed to be closed. The cardinal's spokesman said that although the prelate was exonerated after incriminating reports were published, his reputation is "tarnished beyond repair."
A Friday statement from Cardinal Danneels' spokesman Hans Geybels addressed reports that an incriminating photo had turned up on the hard drive of the cardinal's computer. He said that the photo of a young, nude girl had been automatically downloaded to the computer through no action of its user from a Flemish television website.
A press release from Jean-Marc Meilleur, spokesman for the Brussels' prosecutor's office, explained that an investigation had been carried out as to the origins of the photo of girl. “It is now certain that the picture was downloaded automatically to the temporary files of Mr. Daneels’ computer while visiting the website of the Flemish Broadcast Corporation,” the release said.
Mr. Geybels underscored that "a breach of confidentiality" had led the to the news reports and had "again, tarnished" the cardinal's reputation "beyond repair."
The first instance took place on Tuesday when a Belgian newspaper reported that information belonging to the civil courts involving pedophile and killer Marc Dutroux was found in archdiocesan records. As it turned out, the information was on a CD mailed out by a satirical newspaper for reactions during the 2004 Dutroux trial and had been filed away.
With the national and international news generated by these leaks, asserted Geybels, the cardinal's reputation has been so damaged that not even the prosecutor's explanation of the origins of the photo can repair it.
He concluded his statement saying, "We therefore ask with the greatest insistence that a serious inquiry be made into this violation of the confidentiality of the investigation and are filing a civil complaint as to this subject."
Rome, Italy, Jul 9, 2010 (CNA) -
The Benedictine abbey in Ettal, Germany has announced that the Vatican has cleared two monks who were asked to resign from their positions over the reporting of a sexual abuse allegation. A personal letter from Cardinal Franc Rodé states that his dicastery has found no reason that the two men could not be re-elected to their former positions.
In February, Archbishop Reinhard Marx of the archdiocese of Munich-Friesing asked Benedictine Abbott Barnabus Bögle of the Ettal Abbey and Prior Maurus Kraß of the abbey’s school to resign, according to the German paper Die Welt.
Archbishop Marx said that the men had failed to follow archdiocesan guidelines to properly report an incident of sexual abuse that occurred at the school in 2005. The incident pertained to a priest who comforted a crying boy by rubbing his back and massaging him under this t-shirt.
Die Welt also reported that the school had a previous history of abuse problems, though neither Abbot Barnabus nor Prior Maurus were in positions of authority during that time.
In response to the situation, an Apostolic Visitation of the abbey was carried out.
This week, a letter written personally by Cardinal Franc Rode, Prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, arrived at Ettal Abbey. It cleared the names of the abbot and prior and said that the visitation found “that Abbot Barnabas had done all he was required too” regarding the 2005 case.
The letter also said that because the two men had willingly renounced their positions, “on the part of this dicastery, nothing stands against the re-election of both.”
Vatican City, Jul 9, 2010 (CNA) - The Vatican daily L’Osservatore Romano has offered up praise for Disney-Pixar’s “Toy Story 3” for providing moviegoers with a profound reflection on transcendental human themes and a lesson on true friendship through the experience of the film’s toy stars.
In the film’s third installment, Woody and Buzz Lightyear, together with their friends, are forced to confront their future. Their owner, Andy, has stopped playing with them and at 17 is preparing to head off to college. He must decide whether to donate the toys to a day care center or throw them away.
Reporter Gaetano Vallini stated that “Toy Story 3” is “a film with a capital F” and dismissed the criticisms made by some feminists in the U.S. “who see sexist and homophobic tendencies in some of the characters.”
“They have probably forgotten that when they were girls, toys were only objects kids used to play and to dream with, two things this film also suggests,” he added, underscoring that the film ought to be considered a “masterpiece.”
Vallini praised the film for its creative animation techniques and quality which have “passed the harsh judgment of children and which even adults find entertaining.” The L'Osservatore reviewer went so far as to put it in the same league as other Pixar films that have lifted up human values, such as “Wall-E,” which promotes the defense of life, and “Up,” which in its opening sequence emphasizes the value of marriage.
According to Vallini, “Toy Story 3” reveals that “friendship is the true bond of this unlikely yet tight-net group of toys” and allows the moviegoer to reflect on “important themes such as the value of friendship and solidarity, the fear of feeling alone or rejected, the unavoidability of growing up and the strength that comes from feeling like you belong to a family.”
Santiago, Chile, Jul 9, 2010 (CNA) - Some 30 pastoral workers from the dioceses affected by the 2010 earthquake in Chile and aid workers from the Catholic charity Caritas met in Santiago this week to discuss the continuing efforts to rebuild the country.
During the two-day meeting in Santiago, the various diocesan teams that have been responding since February to the tragedy met with officials from Caritas.
“In our culture, the evaluation has a negative connotation. But we should see it as an opportunity to learn and our attitude should be one that contributes to development,” said Lorenzo Figueroa, director of Caritas Social Ministries.
During the first day, the teams met with Pablo Allard of the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development, who is charge of rebuilding, and discussed how to distribute subsidies to those who do not have a deed for their homes or property.
Hector Hanashiro of Caritas Peru, who has been assisting the teams in Chile, also commented on the plight of the poor, saying, “Natural disasters contribute to a vicious cycle of poverty, because the poor are highly vulnerable to risks and do not have the means to prevent them. Generally their homes are built in the most unsafe places.”
Champaign, Ill., Jul 9, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - The University of Illinois has fired an adjunct professor for teaching in a class on Catholicism that homosexual acts violate natural moral law.
Dr. Kenneth Howell was informed that he could no longer teach in the university's department of religion. The decision came after a student complained that Howell's statements were “hate speech.”
In response to his firing, Howell wrote a letter to friends explaining the events surrounding his dismissal.
Howell said in the letter, which was obtained by CNA, that he first came to teach at the St. John's Catholic Newman Center in 1998. At the time, courses on the Catholic faith were taught through the Newman Center, he explained, but in 2000, an agreement was made with the University of Illinois' department of religion, and he became an adjunct professor in the department and taught classes on Catholicism.
“Since the Fall of 2001, I have been regularly teaching two courses in the department of religion,” Howell explained. One of the classes, “Introduction to Catholicism,” includes an explanation of Natural Moral Law as affirmed by the Church as well as an application of Natural Law Theory to a disputed social issue.
“Most of those semesters, my chosen topic was the moral status of homosexual acts,” he explained.
Howell said he taught the Catholic Church's position on homosexuality. He summed it up by saying, “A homosexual orientation is not morally wrong just as no moral guilt can be assigned to any inclination that a person has. However, based on natural moral law, the Church believes that homosexual acts are contrary to human nature and therefore morally wrong.”
To show how homosexual behavior would be considered under competing moral systems, Howell sent an e-mail to the students contrasting utilitarianism with natural moral law. “I tried to show them that under utilitarianism, homosexual acts would not be considered immoral whereas under natural moral law they would,” Howell said. “This is because natural moral law, unlike utilitarianism, judges morality on the basis of the acts themselves.”
A complaint about Howell's statement was sent in a May 13 e-mail to Robert McKim, head of the religion department. The e-mail was sent by a student who was not in Howell's class, but said he was writing on behalf of a friend who was in the class and wished to remain anonymous. The e-mail complained about Howell's statements on homosexuality, calling them “hate speech.”
"Teaching a student about the tenets of a religion is one thing," said the e-mail, according to The News-Gazette. "Declaring that homosexual acts violate the natural laws of man is another. The courses at this institution should be geared to contribute to the public discourse and promote independent thought; not limit one's worldview and ostracize people of a certain sexual orientation."
Howell said that at the end of the semester, he was called into Robert McKim's office and told that he would no longer be permitted to teach for the department. Howell objected that to dismiss him for teaching the Catholic position in a class on Catholicism was a violation of academic freedom and first amendment rights. “This made no difference,” he said. “After that conversation and a couple of emails, Professor McKim insisted that this decision to dismiss me stood firm.”
According to the local paper The News-Gazette, Howell said he has had students disagree with him in the past, but never in such a manner.
"My responsibility on teaching a class on Catholicism is to teach what the Catholic Church teaches," he said. "I have always made it very, very clear to my students they are never required to believe what I'm teaching and they'll never be judged on that."
The News-Gazette reported that Howell also said he was open with students about his own beliefs as a practicing Catholic. "It's not a violation of academic freedom to advocate a position, if one does it as an appeal on rational grounds and it's pertinent to the subject," he said.
Later, Howell said, Msgr. Gregory Ketcham, the current Director of the St. John’s Catholic Newman Center, informed him that the Center would not be able to continue employing him since there was no longer any teaching for him to do.
“I suggested that we work together to have courses on Catholicism taught at the Newman Center that could be accredited by a Catholic university and that could be transferred into the University of Illinois for credit,” Howell said. “In this way, the students whom we had been called to serve could continue to be instructed in the Catholic Faith.”
However, Monsignor Ketcham said that he had no interest in such a plan, according to Howell.
Howell is currently working with the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) to seek legal redress.
David French, senior counsel for the ADF said in a written statement, "A university cannot censor professors' speech – including classroom speech related to the topic of the class – merely because some students find that speech 'offensive.' Professors have the freedom to challenge students and to educate them by exposing them to different views. The Alliance Defense Fund is working with Professor Howell because the defense of academic freedom is essential on the university campus."